“The time has come to accept that dialogue and agreements will not persuade or compel the People’s Republic of China to change. There’s nothing to be gained from looking the other way or turning the other cheek. We’ve been doing that for far too long,” said O’Brien, clearly hinting at the growing exasperation with China and stepped up rhetoric as US elections near.
The US statement comes days before the next round of talks between Indian and Chinese military commanders in Ladakh, scheduled for October 12. India and the US will also be holding the next round of ‘2+2’ meeting between foreign and defence ministers on October 26-27 in New Delhi and it is significant that O’Brien pointed to the massing of Chinese troops on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.
“Chinese Communist Party’s territorial aggression is apparent on its Indian border where China has attempted to seize control of the line of actual control by force.” The comments coincide with the statements of US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who said on Friday that India was facing a 60,000 troop build-up in eastern Ladakh. Pompeo, who has led the US diplomatic effort against China, was speaking after attending the second Quad ministerial meeting in Tokyo earlier this week.
“The Indians are seeing 60,000 Chinese soldiers on their northern border,” Pompeo was quoted as saying after returning from Tokyo, where he met foreign minister S Jaishankar, along with counterparts from Japan and Australia. The Quad meeting was closely watched all over the world, being the most important counter-balance to China and its timing in the midst of the border stand off and China’s abrasive behaviour with other neighbours too.
“I was with my foreign minister counterparts from India, Australia and Japan, a format we call the Quad, four big democracies, four powerful democracies, four nations each of whom has real risk associated with the threats attempting to be imposed by the Chinese Communist Party. And they see it in their home countries too,” said Pompeo.
O’Brien said the US had strengthened its partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region. “One important partnership which will be one of the most key partnerships for the US in the 21st century, India, is thriving,” he said. The Quad meeting seemed to emphasise a coming together of various countries in an effort to counter China militarily and economically.
This week will see US deputy secretary of state Steve Biegun in India to lay the groundwork for the ‘2+2’ meeting with foreign secretary Harsh Shringla. From March onwards, Shringla and Biegun have held a series of meetings to coordinate approaches on Covid, as well as bringing economies back on the rails post-pandemic. Last month, India, Japan and Australia signed a pact for resilient supply chains, a factor that has assumed greater importance as countries seek to diversify from an over dependence on China.
O’Brien pointed out that countries from Europe to Australia were taking steps to limit their exposure to Chinese snooping, particularly on 5G. “Carriers like Jio in India, Telstra in Australia, SK and KT in South Korea, NTT in Japan, and others have prohibited the use of Huawei equipment in their networks. The Trump administration is investigating and prosecuting the economic espionage aggressively,” he said.